Track Talk: Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan

Can Jimmie Johnson snap a winless streak dating back to May of 2017?

Can Jimmie Johnson snap a winless streak dating back to May of 2017?

Each weekend, our panel provides their thoughts on the latest stories in NASCAR while predicting the winner of the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway, the upcoming Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race!

This weekend, our panelists Adam LucasAshley Hobbs, Ashley Hull, Christina Bowman, Cody ShoppeJose Acero JrKathleen CassidyKatie Copple consider Chase Elliott’s victory last Sunday at Watkins Glen and ponder about Kyle Larson’s chances to win his third straight summer race at Michigan!

Question 1
Chase Elliott has been mostly smiling after winning his first Cup race at the Glen.

Chase Elliott has been mostly smiling after winning his first Cup race at the Glen.

Chase Elliott finally scored his first Cup win last Sunday at Watkins Glen.  With the recent resurgence from the No. 9 team, is this just the beginning for Elliott as a true Cup star racer?

Acero :  We all saw this win coming for a while now and finally he gets such! Great win by the whole 9 team and Chase can finally get that monkey off his back. Boy are we in for a treat watching him evolve into that super star Cup driver we all want to see.

Bowman :  He is just starting out in his young career and has such an amazing future ahead of him. Talent and perseverance like that will take him very far and I cannot wait to see what this young man and that 9 team accomplish in NASCAR over the next few decades.

Cassidy :  This is a huge money off of Chase Elliott’s back. It is safe to say that this driver has so much potential, beyond his last name. Keep an eye out for this ‘young gun’ movement to continue!

Copple :  He still has a long way to go before he can be considered a top dog in the series, but the kid is still a kid. This first win is just the tip of the iceberg for him. He’s with a great team and has a lot of talent… and also a LOT of years left on track. Don’t rush a good thing!

Hobbs :  We see it happen with every driver; most recently, Kyle Larson. It took Larson and Elliott the same number of starts in the top series before they cracked victory lane. That first win is truly pivotal, as we have seen with Larson. This is just the start for Chase Elliott and we all know there are going to be more moments like this in his future.

Hull :  It is nice for Chase Elliott to finally get his first win. However, with how poorly the Chevys/Hendrick camp has been running, he still has a long way to go. But it seems like these last couple of races that the Hendrick team is improving. So we shall see

Lucas : For Chase, time will tell. Thank God it finally happened because honestly, the joke was getting old. I think he can be a threat like he always has been, maybe the floodgates open wide and we see an addition to the Big Three. The Camaro’s of Hendrick Motorsports are starting to get consistent again. But the real story from the Chevy camp has got to be how little anyone has noticed that Ganassi has been more consistent than the “flagship” Chevy team.

Shoppe :  The floodgates will finally open for Chase Elliott now that he finally got the first win out of the way! It may not continue this year as the Chevy’s are just starting to get their act together as well as Hendrick Motorsports slowly gaining pace each week. But nevertheless, this is a great time to be a Chase Elliott fan and there sure are a bunch of them!

Question 2
Can Kyle Larson win his first race of the year (and Chevy's third win of the season)?

Can Kyle Larson win his first race of the year (and Chevy’s third win of the season)?

Michigan’s second race has seen Kyle Larson score two wins in a row with Matt Kenseth, Jeff Gordon, and Joey Logano as the other prior summer race winners.  Given the fact that we’ve seen speed from Chase Elliott and his No. 9 Chevy team in recent weeks, might we see Larson make the Michigan three-peat happen this Sunday?

Acero :  Larson has this place figured out. He will put on a hell of a race come Sunday and possibly steal a win from the “big 3” Let’s not count any of the other drivers out. With the sudden momentum that Suarez is showing wouldn’t surprise me if he is the one with the W at the end.

Bowman :  It’s possible, Larson has an incredible track record at MIS. However, you cannot count out the top contenders for the season either or Bowyer, who won at Michigan in June. Really, there are a lot of people who have a good shot at winning this weekend so it’s hard to say.

Cassidy :  Nothing is ever impossible, however unlikely. Larson has found his way around MIS over the last few years, but weather might play a factor this race weekend (again)!

Copple :  I don’t think Michigan will be any different than nearly every other race this season. It’s going to be Truex, Kyle Busch or Harvick in Victory Lane once again. Elliott taking the Glen was great and all, but he nearly lost it. It wasn’t like one of the big three weren’t right on his tail until the very end. This season is all about the three mentioned above. Larson is good at Michigan, but frankly, he isn’t good enough this season to take them down.

Hobbs :  In the first visit to Michigan International Speedway this year, Chase Elliott was the highest finishing Chevrolet driver; and he was P9. Kyle Larson finished a dismal P28 in that rain shortened race, so we aren’t quite sure what he really had (though, he did finish the second stage in second). Chevrolet needs to find speed on these fast tracks, and there isn’t a sign (yet) that this is the case. Watkins Glen is not a speed track so Watkins Glen to Michigan are mutually exclusive races.

Hull :  There is a great possibility, since he is great at this place. But he will have to contend with Truex and Harvick as well. But we shall see, as Michigan is unpredictable and wild!

Lucas : Nope, not this weekend. It’s going to be one of the Big Three drivers leading the field once again this weekend. But as with a ton of my previous predictions, either it be answering questions or picking the winning driver, I’m usually wrong. I think a blue oval wins this weekend with a strong Toyota presence around it.

Shoppe : The usual big three will likely be the ones to beat again this weekend in MIS but if there is a track left in the regular season Larson can win on this will be it!

That’s two laps around one of the fastest tracks in NASCAR!  Before making a run for the win, let’s circle back to Watkins Glen!
MTJ seemed to be a great pick for one of our panelists.

MTJ seemed to be a great pick for one of our panelists.

Anything's possible in these final four regular season races.

Anything’s possible in these final four regular season races.

Well, friends, let’s reveal our picks to win Sunday’s Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan!
Unlike our June preview, it's a wide open field for the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan!

Unlike our June preview, it’s a wide open field for the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan!

Tiongson :  Chevrolet has only won twice in 2018 but the most consistent racer in their camp has been Kyle Larson.  With the right circumstances and a better qualifying effort, Larson will win the Consumers Energy 400 at Michigan International Speedway!

Hobbs :  He has four runner-up finishes this year, and Michigan is one of his best tracks. He also happens to be the two-time defending champion of this Consumers Energy 400 race. I like Kyle Larson this weekend to finally get victory number one of 2018.

Hull :  Kevin Harvick.

Lucas : The Blue Oval of Kevin Harvick will be soaked in Busch Light as he redeems himself from an ill-fated weather related caution from the previous visit to Michigan.

Copple : I have to go with Harvick here.

Acero :  It will be a blue oval car taking the win this weekend and steering such to victory is Ryan Blaney!

Bowman : I am rooting for Chase Elliott to keep the momentum going from the Glen and score back to back victories.

Cassidy :  Kyle Busch.

Shoppe :  Martin Truex Jr!

TPF Stats :  He has a victory this year, and his first visit to the Consumers Energy 400 produced a podium finish. Look for Erik Jones to make some noise this weekend.

That wraps this week’s preview, race fans!  Thanks for joining us for another edition of Track Talk!

We’re ready for some racing. How about you? What do you think are the biggest storylines heading into Sunday’s race and who is your favorite to win?  Tweet us now @ThePodiumFinish and tell us now!

Thanks as always to the TPF team for their amazing efforts this week!  We hope to see you at the races.

The opinions and thoughts expressed in Track Talk are solely of the authors. They do not reflect any organizations affiliated with the participants and author outside of TPF. This weekly feature is strictly for entertainment purposes and are not indicative of TPF, the organization, and its staff.

Rob Tiongson

30-something motorsports journalist who enjoys sports like baseball, basketball, football, soccer, track and field, and hockey. A Boston native turned Austinite, racing was the first sport that caught my eye. From interviews to retrospective articles, if it's about anything with an engine and four wheels, it'll be here on TPF, by me or by one of my talented columnists who absolutely have a passion for racing.

Currently seeking a sports writing, public relations, or sports marketing career, particularly in motorsports. I enjoy editing and writing articles and features, as well as photography.

Graduated from Southern New Hampshire University with a Bachelor of Arts in Communication. Proud to be from Massachusetts, just as happy to be a Texan.

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